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What will it take?

by Ryan Johnson, Dec 09 2008

What will it take to get a TV series with the tenets of reason, science and intelligence onto the airwaves of a major TV network?

Well, a lot.  As our production team quietly works towards doing just that, the rest of the world is unfortunately left in the dark, at least as it pertains to “The Skeptologists.” I, and  a handful of others are blessed (or cursed) with the knowledge of the what could be in store for our dutiful production.  That knowledge comes with a price. (And I’m not talking about exorbitant production costs)  We know because we are the ones that are actively doing the work to make this happen. We keep the details of the production quiet for many reasons, among those are the fact that the show is evolving, and we’ve got the right amount of cooks at this point.  The other biggie is that we want to protect the hard work that our entire cast and crew has given to this project by making sure that some other company doesn’t come along and grab our format. (Though even if they did, good luck! We’ve got the Skeptical Dream Team so neener neener neener!)

It’s a strange thing, TV.  First you have to come up with an idea that’s exciting fresh and different.  But, yet, not too out of the box, because on-one want’s to take a BIG risk on a show. It has to be like something that’s currently on the air and working …that’s code for getting good ratings and making the advertisers happy.  If you put together this “new fresh idea” The next thing you are going to hear is “Well how do you differentiate your show from XYZ show currently on the air?”  It’s seems you just can’t win.

We must tread a thin balancing rope between being different, but yet being bankable.

We know what sells, It’s what’s on TV now.  The themes and styles of the shows that you are currently watching however, are already old news to the TV production environment though.  Many of us are already onto the new things, they just haven’t aired yet.

As we move into the jingly cheery month of December, virtually all of Hollywood shuts down, save the small glowing screens of a handful of skeptics who are gearing up to write the first eight episodes of the TV series.  While everyone else is bringing on the holiday cheer and ringing in the New Year, Brian Dunning, David Vienna and myself have our work cut out for ourselves.  Powerful forces in the industry have asked us to prepare more detailed information about the show and it’s future.  This is great news folks! We’ve made it past the first several hurdles. And you know what? We’ve found a group of people who really see the merit of the show and are genuinely interested in taking this ball and running with it! Come January 3rd, when the big slick and over-styled wheels of the entertainment industry spin back up, we’ll be there, outlines in-hand ready to fight the battle of mediocracy with our show that aims to bring intellect, science and just plain old common sense to the common TV viewers. Do we have a snowball’s chance in he…  Ah, in er. Well.  Yeah, we do.

21 Responses to “What will it take?”

  1. greg says:

    So you want to shoot for something that is 2 parts Mythbusters, 1 part televangelism, and what else?

  2. oldebabe says:

    Keep on!

  3. Ranson says:

    Good news! Obfuscated, but good!

  4. Nicole says:

    Cheers to you guys!!!

  5. Dave says:

    May God be with you! Oh, wait…never mind that. Best of luck, there are many of us out here in Viewerland rooting for you!

  6. JonA says:

    You can do it! Meeting all you guys at TAM6, and seeing the pilot, gives me great hope that this show will be a great success. Keep trudging!

  7. John Paradox says:

    Speaking of MythBusters, it might help if you blew stuff up!



  8. I take issue with the Mythbusters comparison. If you see the show that’s in development, you’ll see there’s very little crossover between the two. None, really. The Skeptologists is something fresh and much needed, it’s not just another copycat format.

  9. Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a fart in the breeze of reason!

  10. Gold says:

    If the networks don’t run with it you could always release it online on a per episode basis. I’d pay for this sort of viewing and I’ve not even seen the pilot.

    Have you considered releasing the pilot via bittorrent? You would be able to get a good idea of the numbers from any logs you kept.

  11. MIke B says:

    Good to hear there’s a chance of this actually going on the air. I think it’s the perfect time for it; the general public is getting cynical (in a good way) and just about ready for a nice does of critical thinking, as long as it’s packaged in an entertaining wrapper.

  12. David Vanderschel says:

    In a fictional vein, The Mentalist on CBS is a step in the right direction. The important fact is that this new show is popular! I even enjoy it myself. The hero in the Mentalist is sort of a modern day Sherlock Holmes who solves cases with clever observation and, yes, even guile. He says things like “There are no such things as psychics. I used to pretend to be one myself.” A good dose of skeptical thinking is woven into all the scripts. I am very pleased with the success of this show. (FWIW – Though it also promised to be similarly enlightening, I was very disappointed with CBS’s Numbers show when it premiered last year.)

  13. Alt-marketing – If networks or cable won’t pick up The Skeptologists, or even if they do, get it listed with Netflix, then market the crap out of it.

  14. LovleAnjel says:

    I have to give out some fictional kudos to NCIS, Law & Order:SVU and House. Putting aside the overwhelming lack of forensic and medical accuracy (a pet peeve of mine), every time something supernatural or psuedoscientific happens, the shows come down on the side of reason. The UFO landing is a cover-up for a murder, the homeopathic doctor is put on trial for negligent homicide, the psychic is a charlatan AND the murderer. Every ‘spooky’ plot point ends up having a rational explanation, which just warms the cockles of my little black skeptical heart.

  15. Pat in Montreal says:

    Anything reasonable than can balance out the woowoo like “Ghost hunters” and other silly shows like that will be more than welcome!!!


  16. Courtney Franklin says:

    Maybe you can get Discovery channel to air the series, they could always drop crap like Smash labs and all those crime shows they have.

  17. Ian Mason says:

    Get Gil Grissom to wear a Brights badge?
    Seriously, my main source of accessible science is National Geographic TV (Europe). Naked Science, Bible Revelations etc. are really good. Are they re-edited for American consumption?
    Otherwise, I can only echo the others. Keep on keeping on and the break will come.
    Self promotion: Use the link and see my poetry site!
    (Sorry about that but I’m trying to break through too, in my own field)

  18. Beelzebud says:

    Will you be featuring free market, free trade, libertarian propaganda on the TV show, like Mr. Shermer does in his posts here? If so, thanks but no thanks. I find it quite disappointing that you have let this site, and possible TV show be tarnished with posts like that, which distort figures to make purely ideological points that really aren’t grounded in skepticism or science.

  19. ejdalise says:

    Might one possible venue be to offer it On Demand, where content can be selected by topic. Your half hour (hour?) show could be broken up by individual topic and offered in a menu.

    Just wondering if this is of interest, as I know on demand has been used as an avenue to offer content that would otherwise no likely see the light of day in regular broadcasting.

    Not to say you guys won’t get there, but . . . I don’t know; perhaps it’s where I live, but I don’t often meet people who would be considered your target audience. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    Either way, good luck with your efforts.

  20. Like to watch Stargate Atlantis episodes and also Lost. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.